Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)
Therefore, having been justified by FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained access, by FAITH, into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
God’s salvation is for all. It is of utmost importance that ALL of Humanity and creation to embrace the salvation of God. Salvation is necessary for the man or woman who sits in a boardroom, at a multinational company, as it is for the homeless man or woman living on the streets. Salvation is available in Christ and we are saved by grace through faith.
Our relationship with God is premised on faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews, informs us that, ‘it is impossible to please God without faith”. It is faith that gives life to our relationship with God. We must believe in His being, in His divine power and his sovereignty. I want to take it further, that not only is faith the requirement for a relationship with God, but it is the essence of a relationship with God. God is to be our faith, He must be the substance to all things hoped for and the evidence of the things that we do not see.” This is the kind of faith that we need – our faith should be rooted in God and nothing else. It is not to be based on tangible things. It is not to be premised on human beings, but solely on God, and His saving work, evidence in the suffering and crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the kind of faith that brings us God’s salvation.
Therefore there are three things which I think Paul, the writer of our text, supposes are the guarantees of faith, namely, justification, grace and hope. And on these we ought to count on our faith for the past, the present and the future.
Count on Your Faith for Your Past (Justification)
We all have a past. And there are things in our past life which we might not be happy with – things we have done or said, or perhaps things we have omitted to fulfil in the ordinary course of life. And for all the bad, we may have since developed regret, guilty or shame.
Yet, you should not shy away from God, because of your past, rather you should come to him in whatever state you are in and he’ll do the work. People need to stop trying to fix themselves for Jesus and secure their righteousness by their own efforts.
Justification is already offered in Jesus Christ. The Crucifixion of Jesus was not an accident, but rather it was intentional and part-and-parcel of the will and purpose of God. When we were to be punished for our misdoings, subject to the divine judgement of God, the same God, through His great and infinite love, substituted His own Son in our place so that through His suffering and death we should no longer face punishment. Christ took up our place. Christ paid the price for our sin and shame. The punishment that brought us peace with God was inflicted on Christ.
God’s sacrifice made and offered through Christ Jesus is complete. There is no need to add or subtract from it. All we need is to respond in faith, to believe in Him, to believe that His death was on our part and that His righteousness was imputed to us through faith.
Without faith there is no justification. We can escape, the wrath, we can be afforded mercy – the undeserved forgiveness of God – simply through faith.
Count on Your Faith for Your Present (Suffering)
We should not only rely on our faith for our justification, but we must also rely on our faith to bring us into and under God’s grace.
Faith does not close the door to pain and suffering. Just because we believe in God it does not mean that we will not experience persecutions, trials and tribulations. No, some of the hardships we are experiencing are simply a direct result of the very fact that we claim to believe in God. This is to be seen as a blessing. It is suffering that shape us – that produce perseverance, endurance, character and hope. Without them at times we may not get to realise our true potential. We may not know our limits and what we are capable of. We may not know that God is with us and working things out in our favour.
Although, our faith may not close the door to pain, but it gives us perspective on our sufferings, and His grace is what gets us through the pain. Paul in this text does not look at the sufferings in the negative, but rather in the positive – he sees them as a blessing, because He is shaped by the trials, but more importantly, he knows that he is operating under the grace of God.
What a glorious thing to know! Knowing that, although, you are going through various trials, yet the favour of God continues to rest on you. Indeed, one ought to be thankful! Where His favour rest, there is power to overcome, there is protection from all harm and there is divine providence – He takes care of my needs.
Count on Your Faith for Your Future (Hope and Salvation)
Lastly, faith is necessary for our justification, access into God’s grace, but it is also important, for our hope and salvation, for the future.
God’s salvation not only addresses our past and our present but it also secures our future. After our justification and our conversion, but it is also qualifies us for God’s Kingdom. We know that we don’t just live out our earthly lives and pass away and that’s the end of the matter. We live out our hope with great expectation of inheriting eternal life. Thus, all Christians ought to be filled up with hope and be forward looking to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when He will usher us into God’s kingdom.
By faith we know that we have since been transferred from condemnation into justification, we have been liberated from the domain of darkness into the glorious light, and from despair into grace and from death into eternal life.
It may not seem so now, but this is the hope embodied in our faith.
We have every reason not to give up just yet, simply because we go through difficulties, this is certainly not the moment to give up on God! Rather we ought to press on, we ought to hold on and lean on our faith!
Simply, by believing in the saving work of God, expressed through and at expense of Christ Jesus, we are reconciled to God, we are people operating on grace and we are filled up with hope for the future!